With elbow health continuing to generate headlines, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports takes a look at the variety of new treatments — generally grouped under the header of orthobiologics — that pitchers, teams, and medical professionals have turned to in an effort to avoid the necessity of going under the knife. Stem-cell therapy and platelet-rich plasma treatments are now increasingly being deployed throughout the game, though it remains to be seen whether they’ll prove effective. You’ll certainly want to give this piece a full read to understand the state of the science. Those interested in the general subject will also want to read up on the surgical alternatives to the traditional Tommy John approach to torn ulnar collateral ligaments, as we recently discussed here.
Here’s the latest on some injury and health matters around the league:
- Veteran Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton is headed for a visit with his surgeon after feeling pain in his recently repaired left knee, as Jeff Wilson of the Forth Worth Star-Telegram was among those to report on Twitter. It’s unclear as yet how serious a concern the latest knee issue is, though it’s far from the first time that Hamilton has dealt with problems in that joint. The 35-year-old, who last appeared in 2015, is in camp on a minor-league deal. He has been expected to compete for a reserve role as a left-handed-hitting option in the corner outfield, at first base, or in the DH slot.
- There’s promising news on Orioles closer Zach Britton’s potential oblique issues, which came to light yesterday. He told reporters, including Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com (links to Twitter), that he’s not overly concerned with the issue and would still be available to throw were it the regular season. Britton’s comments largely echo those made yesterday by manager Buck Showalter, serving to further reduce the volume on the alarm bells. The key southpaw adds that he finds it encouraging that he has not experienced any pain while throwing.
- Mariners righty Steve Cishek has picked up a ball for the first time since his hip surgery last fall, as MLB.com’s Greg Johns reports. For now, he’ll only throw lightly off of flat ground every other day, though hopefully he’ll ramp up from there. “It felt pretty good, surprisingly,” said Cishek. “There’s some discomfort, but the joint has to get used to that motion again. I was surprised how good it actually felt.”
- Likewise, Mets third baseman David Wright is only beginning to throw the ball, though in his case too it represents an important first step. As Mike Puma of the New York Post reports, manager Terry Collins says it’s likely that Wright won’t take to the field until the middle of March as he continues to work back slowly from serious back and neck issues. Wright is expected to receive opportunities to hit, likely on the minor-league side of camp, in the interim. New York is understandably taking a cautious approach to the veteran. While it still seems unlikely he’ll be ready for Opening Day, the hope may be that he can return to strength in time for MLB action in a relatively early stage of the coming season.
- Mets righty Zack Wheeler is back on the bump and was able to throw thirty pitches today without incident, as Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News tweets. He, too, will surely be handled with kid gloves after a slower-than-hoped return from Tommy John surgery and some elbow discomfort earlier this month. It’s a good sign that Wheeler has been able to return to the mound relatively swiftly, though it remains anyone’s guess just how much the club will get from him in 2017.
- There’s some cautious optimism in Braves camp about the health of lefty Paco Rodriguez, as MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports. Though Rodriguez “has understandably shown occasional signs of rust” as he works back from his own TJ procedure, writes Bowman, the health signs have been encouraging. Atlanta agreed to a $637,500 salary with Rodriguez to avoid arbitration, seemingly leveraging the possibility of a non-tender to secure a deal that fell below MLBTR’s projection of $900K.
- Likewise, Braves righty Dan Winkler is attempting a return, though in his case it’s from a somewhat scarier elbow fracture, as David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution explains. The 27-year-old, who had already battled back from Tommy John surgery, faced a much different recovery process after his second procedure. Now, he’s working on refining his delivery to avoid future problems. Because of the time he’s missed, the 2014 Rule 5 draftee still must stay on Atlanta’s active roster for about two months in order for the organization to take full control of his rights.
- Twins righty Kyle Gibson is also seeking to make mechanical changes this spring, as Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer-Press reports. The 29-year-old, who’s set to earn $2.9MM through arbitration, is seeking to tamp down persistent shoulder problems. As Berardino writes, a new training regimen has been designed in order “to teach Gibson’s arm to pronate properly at the end of his delivery” and thus “keep the humerus from rubbing on the shoulder’s connective tissues.”